Whether you’ve been thinking about hiring a consumer insights company for a while, or if COVID-19 has pushed your company to the point where you realize there could be value in hearing directly from consumers, this blog is for you.
Hiring a firm that specializes in consumer insights is a daunting task. There are huge players out there, such as Ispos, all the way to smaller, boutique specialty firms. Furthermore, you need to distinguish whether syndicated or custom research is a better fit.
Finally, sorting out which type of market research methodology will help deliver the most impactful customer insights is an additional factor you need to consider. Let’s start there, and then we’ll discuss further details to consider when evaluating and hiring an insights firm.
First off, what type of market research specialties does the firm have?
Before you drill into a list of insights companies, first narrow down what type of consumer insights you’re seeking. Generally speaking, insights can be divided into qualitative or quantitative projects (or, commonly, hybrid projects.) Are you needing to know what your customers think about a product, service, or digital experience? If so, qualitative research best addresses these questions. For example, how do customers move through a digital platform experience, whether it’s an app, software product, or website? Or, you may want to understand the buying process that clients go through when evaluating B2B services. Again, qualitative research is the best technique here. Essentially, any time you’re looking to understand processes, motives, and an experience, qualitative research is the most effective way to get to these consumer insights.
However, if your question is to measure how many or how much of a population takes an action or shares an opinion, then quantitative research is the best method. For example, how much do consumers or firms spend on XYZ product? What percentage of time is spent doing a specific task? What is the market share of a particular brand? Or, how have brand perceptions evolved over time? For these topics, quantitative research is the best methodology.
Should you work with a large or small insights firm?
Another question to tackle is whether to work with a large firm or smaller boutique firm. Both have advantages, and we’ll outline the key ones.
If you’re primarily looking for syndicated research, larger consumer insights firms have the size and budgets to conduct these studies, which they then sell to clients. For example, if you work in banking and want to understand financial trends and consumer spending patterns, syndicated research often conducts large-scale, syndicated studies like this. Essentially, industry-specific trends and research that covers niche markets is best handled by syndicated research firms.
However, if your project is specifically around your product and service, and you’re seeking insights on how your customers or product think about and use your services, then custom, tailored research, conducted by a smaller market research firm, is the strongest bet. Boutique research companies will dedicate their senior team members to the project, work closely with your team to understand the unique frustrations and questions you have, and then design a custom study to answer this. You simply won’t get that type of customization and expertise from a large, syndicated research firm.
If your customer insights work will involve qualitative research – interviewing people – then finding an insights firm that has top-notch recruiting is an absolute must. Simply put, good recruiting is the heart and soul of qualitative research.
Qualitative research involves segmenting audiences – so putting people into persona categories, based on things such as age, or household income, or most popular brands they may purchase. It’s extremely important to get these segments right, upfront, so that marketing campaigns and media buys can then be tailored toward these segments.
In consumer insights, we first start out by segmenting audiences, and then we recruit participants who fit in these segments. We write detailed screeners that ensure people fit a customer profile before they’re invited into the study. It’s slow, tedious work to screen and find the right people, but once we find them, the right participants (when interviewed by experienced moderators) provide a wealth of consumer insights.
At InterQ, we don’t rely on databases or third-party firms for our qualitative recruiting. We have our own team who custom recruits for each study, for both B2B and B2C, so we can ensure we get the right mix, every time.
What is the firm’s industry experience?
Finally, when looking for a consumer insights firm, you need to evaluate whether they have the expertise and experience in your particular industry. Ask to see their list of clients, and request case studies. Ask for references. If you’re in B2B, how strong is their B2B portfolio? B2B is highly specialized, and it requires careful recruiting and highly skilled moderators. B2C has its own niches and requirements too. Spend time doing your due-diligence upfront, before you hire an insights firm, as their past experience and results will be indicative of what they will deliver.